[Column] LINE’s Web3 Strategy: Building the Infrastructure and Content for Mainstream Success
By Woosuk Kim, CEO of LINE TECH PLUS PTE. LTD and Business Director of LINE NEXT
The year of 2021 was a very important turning point in the history of blockchain and crypto. The crypto market cap and the number of market participants experienced a significant increase in popularity, while the rapid growth of the NFT market led to a bewildering array of both opportunities and crises for businesses and creators.
LINE Blockchain has undergone business and organizational restructuring since mid 2021 to take the lead in changing global trends. LINE NEXT, dedicated to expanding the global blockchain and NFT ecosystem within the LINE groups, has been newly established in Korea and the United States, and is working with the LINE internal organizations that have regional and industry expertise to prepare for global business expansion. We also have announced that we are looking to hire about 100 talented people to strengthen LINE NEXT’s capacity, and that we are partnering with leading international companies like SoftBank Corp., NAVER, CJ ENM, and YG PLUS.
For those who are willing to create the future of Web3 with LINE, and for those who have been with our projects from the beginning, we would like to share how far we have come and what we want to aim for in the future.
⎮LINE Blockchain’s Footprint
LINE Blockchain has been carrying out a wide range of projects with the aim of popularizing blockchain since early 2018, working with the crypto exchanges in the United States and Hong Kong-based crypto funds and more. As the essence of the LINE Group is based in Japan, it was also important for us to work on building a new digital environment for the Japan, too.
Japan is surprisingly almost the only country where the initial market for blockchain was formed, and where an approval system for crypto and its listing were officially introduced. That means user trust in crypto-related organizations and digital assets is fairly high. So, rather than doing a variety of experiments based on open networks, it was necessary for us to build a market for a stable blockchain platform and services within the crypto approval system, which was not easy.
LINE has taken a strategy that suits the market and users, and we were able to list LINE’s own digital asset, LINK (LN), as 28th official crypto in Japan. This meant LINE was able to officially and freely distribute LINK as a listed company. LINE then established services that allowed anyone to easily reward, trade, deposit, and use tokens within the LINE messenger app. We commercialized a solution that could provide LINK to millions of general users within the system, and we are now conducting a LINK payment trial service that allows users to pay merchants like Starbucks and McDonald’s in Japan directly and receive LINK rewards.
Above all, we worked hard to take the lead in building a strong NFT ecosystem based on Japanese cultural content. We have been able to issue tokens and have a wallet service since 2020 and we launched the NFT Market Beta service on LINE BITAMX Wallet last June in order to conduct Proof-of-concept in various fields, such as gaming, metaverse, characters, entertainment, and art, resulting in over 1.6 million NFTs of distribution. We also have played a role of a market creator to institutionalize NFTs in the game industry as a member of Japan Virtual Currency Exchange Association (JVCEA) and Japan Crypto Business Association (JCBA).
In Japan, LINE has a newly launched NFT market platform called LINE NFT, and we are looking to further develop NFT-based innovation by building more than 100 pipelines for companies and creators. A major concern in the global gaming industry is P2E (Play to Earn), however entering the Japanese market is very challenging due to a listing authorization system. That is why gaming companies are more likely to turn their eyes to the blockchain and luckily to LINK’s token economy infrastructure.
There have been a number of difficulties in building the various services within the Japanese listing system that we’ve discovered through trial and error. There were even moments when we were anxious about the regulatory approval process required to launch the service, and when we were discouraged by interruptions and delays caused by the complicated regulatory environment and unexpected external factors. Yet, we believe these rewarding experiences have made LINE ready to lead the global Web3 era, as we have laid the foundation for the blockchain ecosystem in Japan, which is an IP powerhouse and one of the world’s largest economies. All the things we’ve learned from our experiences in the United States, Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong over the past four years have definitely made us the company we are today and helped develop our future potential.
⎮Our Future Direction
LINE is now aiming to build the largest NFT value chain in Asia (including Japan) and further innovate the user network and cohesiveness in the global Web3 environment. It is true that the current NFT market is full of expectations like the crypto market once was, so it is necessary to consider what the practical value and sustainability of NFTs will be. Nevertheless, NFT technology is still critical since it might be the last piece of puzzle to popularize the blockchain and enlarge its current user base of 200 million people.
If there has been only money (FT) in the blockchain over the past decade, money is now being transferred to goods (NFT), which means that users have begun to adopt the blockchain not only for simple benefits, but for the taste, entertainment, and network within the people’s community. About 70% of early NFT users say they traded NFT for no particular reason, rather than claiming they were trying to make a profit through day-trading. Companies that used to regard blockchain as finance have started to shift an old-fashioned idea into something trendy to strengthen their business and branding by embracing NFTs. All these changes show how the kind of global, popular service we are pursuing is not just a fantasy, but has emerged as a solution to meet the user demand, tastes, fun and their desire to create bonds or relationships with others.
As the production and consumption of goods (NFT) expands, so will the blockchain-based money (FT), finance (DeFi) and organization (DAO) and that the growth momentum will just accelerate over the coming years. This will lead to more people experiencing blockchain services by creating blockchain wallets, engaging in economic activities and even political participation while acquiring and using NFTs. It is no coincidence that the metaverse, which has already been talked about in the blockchain industry for more than four years, recently was applied in full-scale use cases after the NFT trading volume grew significantly in the second half of last year. NFTs are the starting point for the metaverse, where experience and immersion in digital can go beyond the old limits.
The NFT market still has a long way to go, even with the great expectations we have for it. Only 10 million users around the world have actual NFT trading experience, which is only about 2% of internet users. This 2% is mostly early crypto natives (investors) in the United States and some gaming users in the Southeast Asian regions. But not everyone can be crypto punks or play games for economic gain. This is the time to focus on the shared growth and distribution of value based on blockchain for NFTs to become popular, with diverse products and services and a user-friendly UX.
LINE wishes to overcome the limits some have set for NFTs and lead its popularization in the globe. Our recently released DOSI and LINE NFT platforms will lay the foundation for publishing NFTs with high potential content and IPs for anyone who wants to get closer to the digital world. We will not only service NFT issuance or transaction brokerage, but also create Asia’s largest NFT value chain and maximize the NFT experience through releasing killer services by sector and marketing infrastructure.
Starting this year, we will augment scalability by integrating the DeFi ecosystem and the heterogenous chain based on public networks and open sources as we aim to promote LINE Blockchain as a public network. This will help us to position ourselves as a major infrastructure channel for the global blockchain ecosystem and create Web3 environment for all users — in turn, this will empower users to hold real economic power and grow all together with service content, demonstrating the power of this digital trend and the connectivity with others.
In an era where Asia is taking the global lead when it comes to cultural content and digital trends, LINE will be able to achieve its goals through years of experience as a leading messenger service, with the knowhow of how to operate social infrastructure and blockchain-based platforms.
We need more people to be with us and support us so we can achieve our missions much quicker. We appreciate the amazing support everyone has shown for all our LINE Blockchain projects, and we encourage anyone looking to take on some exciting new challenges to join LINE NEXT so we can make those steps together.